In a tremendous display of unity and solidarity, participants from across North America joined the People’s Power Summit June 11-12 in Maribel, Wisconsin.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. We do not have time for despair. There’s no place for self pity. There’s no need to stay silent. And there is no room for fear. We speak. We write. We sing and we do language. And that is how we move forward to heal where we are in the current climate,” said Summit Cultural Arts Chair Bernadette B.J. Lark in a promotional video prior to the event.
Lark continued: “Those words were spoken by another beautiful artist Ms. Toni Morrison. She said: “‘I know the world is bruised and bleeding and though it is important not to ignore the pain, it’s also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge even with wisdom, like art.'” So as an Artivist, I’m excited to come share what it is that we’ve been preparing. We’re so thankful that the community there in Wisconsin have opened their arms to welcome us in. And, there is no stopping us now. A better way to say it: Ain’t no stopping us now!. We are on the move. I love you all. I’m so excited I want to see you there.”
Those attending the Summit came from seven states, from over 35 towns, villages and cities and from over 15 counties in Wisconsin. Every sector of the working class, many political tendencies and numerous mass organizations were represented at the Summit. These included leaders and members of the Family Farm Defenders, the Wisconsin Farmers Union, Black Lives Matter, Veterans For Peace, unions, disability rights, women, faith-based, the unemployed, legal aid, migrant, environmental, youth/student and LGBTQ organizations. Members of three Indigenous Nations – the Menominee, the Oneida and the Chickasaw – presented. A delegation of a dozen traveled from Virginia to participate. Presenters also traveled to the Summit from Denver, Detroit, Boston, New Jersey and New York City. (A full schedule, videos, photos and more here: peoplespowersummit.org)
Completely independent politically and organizationally, the Summit was organized in about three months by the volunteer labor and other resources of poor and working people. Goals included: Consolidate progressive networks and individuals to enable more effective organizing; to develop working class infrastructure to build our people’s power in rural, semi-rural and urban areas.
Held on a farmer’s space in Maribel just south of Green Bay, the over 200 participants remarked on the accomplishment of having the Summit in a state such as Wisconsin which has become a right-wing model nationally but which has a rich progressive history of people’s struggles. From set up to take down, the Summit was infused with a progressive people’s culture, program and organization. All work before, during and after the Summit was done by volunteers including food production and serving, sound and much more. Participants of all ages, orientations and backgrounds appreciated the opportunities to develop relationships and learn about a variety of people’s struggles currently taking place. Many participants agreed that the Summit is a general model for the coming period and could take a variety of forms such as people’s or worker’s assemblies.
Summit participants agreed to convene again June 27 for an MLK Day Manitowoc organizing meeting to discuss a 2022 MLK Day rally and march in Manitowoc.
My name is Bryan G Pfeifer, Co-Founder of the Wisconsin Bail Out The People Movement which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this month. I’m also a member of the People’s Power Summit Coordinating Committee.
In the midst of some of the most severe unrelenting attacks we’ve faced historically as poor and working people – in the area now known as Wisconsin, nationally and worldwide – here we are at the People’s Power Summit! Welcome!
Our gathering here this weekend is a major victory against Wall Street forces and their political servants and a serious advance for people’s unity and solidarity.
We take our cue from the heroic Black Lives Matter movement, a continuation of the centuries long Black Freedom Struggle. After the police murder of George Floyd, the Black masses led a mass movement of millions in the United States and worldwide last summer and fall and this continues.
We also owe a great debt to the Palestinian people’s resistance which, despite all odds, continues to oppose U.S. – Israeli apartheid inspiring freedom fighters internationally.
We also honor the many Indigenous Nations who continue to fight for their sovereignty on many fronts. Water IS Life!
And we salute and take inspiration from the courageous people’s fighters from Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, on Turtle Island (North America), and the Caribbean.
We also honor the courageous worker’s struggles here in Wisconsin including the paper workers, the workers at Kohler members of UAW Local 833, the undocumented, women and LGBTQ workers, the open housing marches, Black Lives Matter and so many more.
Union, YES! Jim Crow, NO!
And, the spirit of our glorious February-March 2011 occupation of the state capitol in Madison lives with us here today.
An Injury to One Is An Injury To All!
Some might ask:
How did you organize a People’s Power Summit in a state that has become a right-wing model with unrelenting attacks on poor and working people daily?
How did y’all fight back against those who want to absolutely crush our ability to organize effectively?
How did you advance against those who want to steal our people’s history in Wisconsin and beyond?
How did you take a completely independent approach to build this People’s Power Summit?
Why have the Summit in a rural area such as Maribel?
First, we have learned life-and-death lessons from our people’s history in Wisconsin, in particular the February-March 2011 people’s occupation of the state capitol in Madison. And most recently Black Lives Matter protests during the summer and fall 2020 that took place in dozens of cities in Wisconsin led by Black workers but joined by thousands of white workers and other allies.
These and other lessons have informed our approach, program and organization for this Summit.
We believe we collectively have built a model to be expanded in Wisconsin and beyond. Do we have an exact blueprint as to how to move forward and advance? No. But we put forward here what we believe is why we were able to accomplish what we did in organizing this Summit.
Leadership and organization. Leadership that is rooted in the workplaces and community, is internationalist, responsible and committed to the people and are above all else fighters. Organization that is rooted in a people’s program and is completely independent of Wall Street forces and their political servants’ influence financially and otherwise. Leadership and Organization that has at its core the mission to fight racism and any form of bigotry by any means necessary!
Malcolm X once declared, “History is best qualified to reward our research.” With this directive, in studying our people’s history, we have learned to have complete confidence and faith in ourselves as poor and working people. After all, we the workers, are the ones who make this world run and the pandemic conclusively confirmed this. We don’t need to be led by the rich and their political servants, we poor and working people can lead ourselves!
From the beginning at our People’s Power Summit convening meeting March 8, 2021 – International Women’s Day – our orientation was rooted in our commitment to women, LGBTQ and people of color in the leadership of the Summit organizing. We take very seriously Dr. George Tiller’s motto: “Trust Women.” Although many have helped build this Summit, it is the women who were and are the core organizers and spirit of this initiative.
In three months, we have organized and built one of the most diverse, completely independent people’s events in modern northeastern Wisconsin history! We are multinational, all ages, all genders and orientations. We come from every sector of our class and multiple spaces including the anti-war, environmental, union, women and LGBTQ movements. Leading up to this Summit we had multiple outreach and media events, a fundraiser and more that resulted in the building of our relationships in Manitowoc County and throughout the state, the country and beyond.
These are all remarkable accomplishments but it’s just the beginning of what we could do as we move forward. It will not be easy but we must have confidence in ourselves and our fellow poor and working people.
Our goals of this summit:
Continue building our independent people’s network with mutual support of activists in this region of Wisconsin in alliance with others beyond this region;
Building our independent working class infrastructure to build our power.
These goals take into account what the rich and their servants through right-wing think tanks such as the Americans For Prosperity, the Bradley Foundation, the Mackinac Institute and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty have done to us in Wisconsin. They have not only stolen tens of billions from us through Jim Crow laws such as Act 10 and Right-To-Work (for less), they have either destroyed or reduced our working class infrastructure.
Our task now as poor and working people now is to challenge this through rebuilding our unions and our other working class organizations as class combat organizations so we can fight effectively. Again, to be effective, we must build our working class organizations as class combat fighting organizations!
We must also be connected to the South in the U.S. and support class struggles there such as the workers union drive at Bessemer, Alabama. The rich and their servants in Wisconsin have multiple connections to the South such as Art Pope from North Carolina now being the President of the right-wing Bradley Foundation, Scott Walker being the new Executive Director of the northern-Virginia based Young Americans Foundation, the billion dollar northern-Virginia based union busting industry and the Wall Street of the South, Charlotte, North Carolina.
For us in the People’s Power Summit, we’ve had our friends from Virginia be instrumental in helping us build this Summit and they are here with us today. These are the types of principled tactical and strategic alliances we must build to ensure real people’s unity and to advance effectively. Organize The South!
As we work together in unity and solidarity, we put forth our baseline protocols of relationship and movement building. These are known as the St. Paul Principles:
1.) Our solidarity will be based on respect for a diversity of tactics and the plans of other groups.
2.) The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain a separation of time or space.
3.) Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events.
4.) We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption and violence. We agree not to assist law enforcement actions against activists and others.
This People’s Summit is a learning experience for all of us. In this period of severe reaction against us by the rich and their servants, our Summit is a unique opportunity for us to stop, take stock of where we are, who we are, what we have and what we need to advance to build a better world. In our view, these are the fundamental building blocks of our steps into the next period as we learn how to put forth our people’s program to go on the offensive instead of being in a constant cycle of defensive actions (although those are needed as well).
At this Summit there will be a variety of opportunities to build our strength as poor and working people and to learn about opportunities of how to be engaged in class struggle. Some of these opportunities will include the many Juneteenth events taking place across Wisconsin on June 19, Freedom Day. See www.wibailoutpeople.org for listings.
We will also be sponsoring an organizing meeting Sunday, June 27 at 3 P.M. at 1521 Washington Street, Manitowoc. This will be a convening meeting to begin building the January 17, 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day march and rally in Manitowoc. Besides setting up the organizational structure for this initiative, we’ll also use the months leading up to the march and rally to host movie screenings, educational events and more.
In our work to build a better world free of poverty, racism and war, we remember and carry with us the words of our fellow fighter Commandante Ernesto Che Guevera.
“We are realists. We dream the impossible. ”
June 11-12, 2021 WPPS Photos and Videos available here:
It was the beginning of the year 1970. News came that Wang Xingguo was about to work on a railway project in Africa. His wife Zhang Yunhua was very reluctant to let him go: Africa is so far away and their sons are still too little — the elder one is three years old and the younger one is only two. Wang tried to explain: He is a cadre, a CPC member; when duty calls, he must be the first to sign up. In October that year, Wang, together with over 1,000 co-workers, got on board the ocean liner Jianhua in Guangzhou and left for Tanzania….
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